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Saturday, 9-Apr-2011 01:14 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Coaching in the NBA can be a dangerous job

Charles Oakley, one of the NBA's all-time tough guys, doesn't want to talk about his excruciating back pain.

"I'm good," the Charlotte Bobcats assistant said recently before brushing off further questions.

Yet one quick look at Oakley shows he's not. He hasn't returned to the bench since having to be carried from the court before a game in San Antonio last month with a sciatic nerve problem that's made it difficult to walk.

"He's not doing too good right now," Bobcats coach Paul Silas said Thursday.

The 47-year-old Oakley is the latest example of an NBA coach walking the fine line of teaching from the sidelines and hands-on instruction.

There's plenty of other harsh examples, ranging from Patrick Ewing's broken foot to Nate McMillan's ruptured Achilles' tendon to the sight of Bobcats owner Michael Jordan icing both knees after practicing with his team.

"It catches up with you. I've been through that. You forget," said Golden State coach Keith Smart, who when he was an assistant regularly banged with players. "It gets to the point where your body tells you that can't do it anymore but your mind tells you that you can. So you start having the pains players are having, but you're older."

According to STATS LLC, Oakley is one of 17 former All-Stars serving as assistants in the NBA. Many of them feel they can still do some of what made them great. And until recently, the fit and strong Oakley looked like he could suit up and give the Bobcats 20 solid minutes.

Oakley, who claims the NBA's beefed-up flagrant fouls rules were in response to the hard fouls he committed during his playing days, consistently tangled with Kwame Brown and Charlotte's other big men in intense workouts. Oakley has been credited with helping Brown have one of his best seasons.

"He really gets after it with those big guys and makes them work," Bobcats forward Stephen Jackson said.

It's uncertain if Oakley's injury is directly due to banging in practice. But seeing one of the NBA's top enforcers being in too much pain to walk was a cruel example of aging.

"I learned my lesson early. Oak, he still tries to play," said the 48-year-old Ewing, an Orlando assistant, Hall of Famer and Oakley's former teammate in New York. "I'm too old to go out there and try to mix it up with them. I stay away from that."

There's a reason. Ewing broke his foot a few years ago while working out with the Magic. When Portland had so many injuries last season and didn't have enough players for a 5-on-5 scrimmage, the 46-year-old McMillan took to the floor. The Trail Blazers coach promptly ruptured his Achilles' tendon.

"Unless you want to go to an orthopedic surgeon, you don't want to practice," Knicks assistant Herb Williams said, laughing. "I don't know if it's the elasticity or the strength in your joints and then that's when you end up getting injured. You've got to be careful.

"If I was to go out here and play with one of these guys, I wouldn't be jumping up in the air, trying to do all kinds of crazy stuff. Everything I would be doing would be on the floor."

Yet the ability of former players to work with current ones can be invaluable. Ewing helped tutor Dwight Howard early in his career. Jordan's presence always ratchets up the intensity at Bobcats practice. Rookie John Wall has spent countless hours going up against Washington assistant and former All-Star point guard Sam Cassell this season.

"He gets banged up a little bit, but you hope that ex-players can keep on playing," Wizards coach Flip Saunders said of Cassell. "I'm a firm believer that you want to keep your coaches, everyone, in shape. Coaching takes a toll on your body, whether the stress, the travel or everything else. They need to be active."

But Saunders also noted the 41-year-old Cassell, in his second year as a coach, is still adjusting to a much different role.

"I still have to get on him because he has to understand he's not still a player," Saunders said. "That's always the big adjustment for guys that have played in the league. But he's learning as a coach and I think the players are learning from him."

And as injuries and fatigue mount late in a grueling season, an energetic assistant who can push players can help boost a team.

"I hold my own," said Minnesota's Darrick Martin, who turned 40 last month. "I probably surprise them a little bit every now and then."

Yet there's a fine line to how far you can go. Watching Oakley walk gingerly with shooting pain that's moved from his lower back to his legs is the hard-to-watch proof.

"He says the pain has gone to his knee," Silas said. "Hopefully, he can resolve that and get better. But right now he's struggling."

AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York; Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber in San Antonio and AP Sports Writers Colin Fly in Milwaukee, Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.

Friday, 25-Mar-2011 02:15 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Arizona's Williams comes home to play Duke

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One of the last times Derrick Williams came home to play basketball, things didn't go well for Arizona.

The Wildcats arrived in Los Angeles with a two-game lead in the Pac-10 standings and got swept by Southern California and UCLA. Williams scored a season-low eight points against the Trojans before rebounding with 15 points against the Bruins.

The Wildcats hung on in their final two games to win the league's regular-season title and Williams was named Pac-10 player of the year.

Now, the sophomore from La Mirada is close to home again, this time for the biggest game of his college career.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats (29-7) play the top-seeded Blue Devils (32-4) in the NCAA West Regional on Thursday at Honda Center.

Williams was besieged with ticket requests, although he'll only be able to satisfy his family.

"Not that many people have that much money to spend on a 40-minute game, but a lot of people will be at a pizza place, someplace that has a lot of TVs, gather around and watch the games right there," he said.

The Wildcats practiced Wednesday at Williams' old high school in La Mirada, 15 minutes from the Orange County arena.

"Going back to my high school brought back a lot of memories," he said. "My senior season we won the league championship. That was the best thing my school has had basketball-wise, first time since '82 that we had a league championship."

Another Arizona starter, Kyle Fogg, grew up 10 minutes away in Brea, while reserve Alex Jacobson is from nearby Santa Ana. Jordin Mayes and starter Solomon Hill are both from Los Angeles.

"It's good to be home, but we're here for business right now," Fogg said.

And Arizona's goal is to knock off the defending national champions, whose .762 winning percentage in the NCAA tournament is the best ever.

"It's never to your advantage going against them in this tournament," second-year Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

He should know. As a Xavier assistant under Thad Matta, Miller saw the Blue Devils beat the Musketeers by three points to earn a spot in the 2004 Final Four.

"Can we match their intensity and effort level, not for part of the game or not after the first four minutes when we get used to them, but from start to finish?" Miller said. "That's our only chance."

The Wildcats' tourney winning percentage of .643 is eighth-best, although their run of 25 consecutive appearances ended last year, when Williams was a freshman and Miller was just starting to remake the program in his vision.

"We didn't have a lot of goals other than to be better than we were a year ago and we had a lot of hungry players who had great offseasons that translated from last year to this year," Miller said. "`That's what's fueled our improvement more than anything."

Giving the Blue Devils a postseason boost is Kyrie Irving, who returned at the start of the tournament after missing 26 games with an injured right toe. He averaged 12.5 points in their first two wins, a blowout of Hampton and a two-pointer against Michigan.

The freshman point guard won't start Thursday, although coach Mike Krzyzewski said he will play several minutes.

"He played significant minutes last week when I thought he was going to play limited minutes, so I mentioned that he will play significant minutes tomorrow," Krzyzewski said. "I don't know what the hell that means. It means he's going to play great minutes hopefully."

Irving's biggest adjustment in going from bench-bound cheerleader to game action has been regaining his conditioning.

"I've been away from the game so long, not playing at a high level, so that's going to be a factor for me," he said. "I'm feeling more comfortable out there. I have no limitations on my foot."

The Wildcats have prepared for Duke with and without Irving, regarded by many as the Blue Devils' best player who could have been national freshman of the year had he not gotten hurt eight games into the season. He's scored in double figures every game he's played. "It changes their whole game because he can speed up the game, he's a very good point guard," Arizona's Kevin Parrom said. "He makes his team a lot better. He can do it all."

Arizona and Duke last met in the NCAA tournament in 2001, with Duke winning 82-72 in the title game to claim the third of its four national championships. The Wildcats haven't gone that far since then, while the Blue Devils hoisted the trophy again last year.

"Our main focus is not being scared," Parrom said. "Some people when they play they tend to get scared because they're playing a big-name team. We respect Duke, but we just have to go out there and play."

Krzyzewski notched his 900th career win last weekend against Michigan, leaving him two victories away from tying Bob Knight as the winningest coach in NCAA history.

"Any individual win during a season is never that big, except if it leads to a league championship, a tournament championship, and obviously the national championship," he said.

Four more wins would do just that.

Thursday, 17-Mar-2011 07:45 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Pro scouts swarm to Doak

Representatives from at least 28 NFL teams spent nearly three hours Wednesday morning evaluating Florida State's top pro prospects.It appeared they will not leave Tallahassee disappointed.

Now-former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder continued his strong postseason with what was generally regarded as an impressive 45-minute throwing session. Ponder did not run in the 40-yard dash or take part in other measured agility tests like the broad jump, vertical jump or cone drills.

But he provided pro scouts another close look at his right arm in action.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden were among those who thought Ponder performed well in the passing drills.

"Christian has helped himself consistently since the season ended," Mayock said. "He had all the injury concerns and problems as a senior, which I know was frustrating. His Senior Bowl was an excellent week. His Combine was a good couple of days. Today, I thought he threw the ball well and showed that he had more than adequate arm strength. We all know he has good feet and that he's an athlete. I thought he did really well today."

Gruden, who was recently named the Bengals' offensive coordinator, and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis both watched Ponder work.

"With Christian, especially with the issues he had with his arm and his elbow, we just want to see that he's spinning it and that he's been working," Gruden said. "You want to see what kind of velocity he has on the ball and his accuracy. And you get another chance to talk to him and meet with him."

Ponder's workout was somewhat limited by available receiving targets. FSU has no draft-eligible receivers this year, so Ponder threw the majority of his passes to fullback Matt Dunham, who was working out as a tight end, and tailback Tavares Pressley.

The recent player lockout in the NFL further restricted the pool of receiving targets. Former NFL receiver Isaac Bruce flew into Tallahassee on Wednesday morning and ran routes for Ponder. Bruce and Ponder (and FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher) share the same agent — Jimmy Sexton.

Thursday, 3-Mar-2011 02:24 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Don't expect NFL deal until summer


Two experts in sports law are paying attention to the resumed mediated talks between NFL owners and the NFL Players Association amid the pending expiration of the labor agreement.

Each, though, is looking past Thursday night, when the collective bargaining agreement expires, to an undetermined "deadline" in late summer. When cancellation of regular-season games becomes a reality, they insist, is when the warring sides will roll up their sleeves and get something done.

And not before.

"Nothing magical happens Thursday or Friday," stressed Gary Roberts, dean of the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. "The collective bargaining agreement expires Thursday, but there's really no earth-shaking consequences that flow from that. What's worrisome is whether this all might result in losing some games . . . or losing the season altogether."

Roberts' anticipation of a resolution has been unwavering.

"I think the deal will probably get done in late August or early September," he said. "That's really when the deadline is."

Gabriel Feldman, an associate professor of law and director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University, agreed.

"There has to be some pressure on both sides to make a deal," he said. "The pressure point right now is this March 3 expiration. That doesn't seem to have been effective at getting them to make a deal."

Mediated negotiations resumed Tuesday afternoon in Washington. Owners are scheduled to meet today and Thursday in Chantilly, Va.

If a new agreement isn't in place by Thursday night, the players union might decertify or, failing that, owners are expected to lock out the players.

Either scenario could lead to a cessation of all football operations until labor peace is achieved. As disruptive as that would be -- no player signings, no minicamps, no organized team activities, no training camps -- teams undoubtedly would adjust.

The next pressure point in the talks, Feldman said, "is making sure no regular-season games are canceled. There is not much reason for the players or the owners to reach an agreement over the next three or four months. They aren't going to lose much."

Feldman's short-term expectations? "We will leave the boardroom and go into the courtroom," he said.

Roberts, a former outside counsel for the NFL, describes the threat of player decertification and a lockout by owners as "legal mumbo-jumbo" and "bargaining devices."

"All of these things by both sides are simply trying to increase their bargaining position so when they finally have to get the deal done, they'll get a better deal from the other side," he said. "It's typical collective bargaining that goes on in any industry."

The union prepared for possible decertification by receiving endorsement from players on all 32 teams last season. It must decertify prior to the expiration of the current CBA so that labor issues will fall under the jurisdiction of U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis, who is considered player-friendly.

Decertification means the union no longer exists and players are individual employees. That could lead to players filing antitrust claims against the NFL if the league attempts to carry on operations by implementing a certain set of rules agreed upon by 32 separate teams.

"If (32 teams) all operate under the same rules, the players are going to allege it's a conspiracy that restrains trade and the league is at antitrust risk," Roberts said, adding the litigation could take several years. "Neither side wants to shut down the league for three or four years. That would be financial suicide."

One possible reaction by the league to decertification and the expiration of the CBA is simply to no longer do business until an agreement is in place. It's a lockout without being called one.http://tsxu98.blog.com/

"If the players decertify, and I'm just guessing here, then the league would immediately cease operating," Roberts said. "That's a non-technical way of saying lock out the players. The only thing they can do that won't be seen as an illegal conspiracy is to have a shutdown."

Whatever the short-term future holds, Roberts is convinced of one thing.

"It's going to get real ugly before it gets done," he said.Negotiations update

The NFL and the players' union wrapped up negotiations Tuesday evening in Washington, with the New York Giants' John Mara becoming the first team owner to participate since a federal mediator began overseeing the talks.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and his group left shortly before 8 p.m., 52 hours before the collective bargaining agreement is due to expire.

Mara, Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the league's competition committee, and Washington Redskins GM Bruce Allen were among those joining NFL commissioner Roger Goodell when mediation resumed Tuesday. It was the eighth day of mediation, and the sides meet again today.

Judge sides with union

With a potential NFL lockout looming, a federal judge gave a key ruling in favor of the players that could strip what the union has been calling unfair leverage for the owners in labor negotiations.

In Minneapolis, U.S. District Judge David Doty backed the NFL Players Association in a dispute with the league over $4 billion in TV revenue, money that players argue owners collected for a war chest to fund a lockout.

Doty overruled a special master, declaring the NFL violated its agreement with the union, which had asked that the TV money be placed in escrow until the end of any lockout. A hearing, yet to be scheduled, will be held to determine damages for the players.

The union accused the NFL of structuring TV contracts agreed to in 2009 and 2010 so owners would be guaranteed money even if there were a work stoppage in 2011 -- while not getting the most revenue possible in other seasons, when income would need to be shared with players. The union argued this violated an agreement between the sides that says the NFL must make good-faith efforts to maximize revenue for players.

"The record shows that the NFL undertook contract renegotiations to advance its own interests and harm the interests of the players," Doty wrote in the ruling.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello downplayed the significance of the ruling. He told The Associated Press that the NFL had not determined whether it would appeal.

Monday, 21-Feb-2011 02:02 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Isiah Thomas isn't involved in Carmelo Anthony trade talks betwe


LOS ANGELES - In a preemptive strike in the event that they get Carmelo Anthony in a trade, the Knicks said in a statement Sunday that Garden chairman Jim Dolan Cheap NFL Jerseys has been working with team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni, and suggested that former team president Isiah Thomas has had no involvement in the team's trade talks with the Denver Nuggets.

"We want to make it abundantly clear that we have been in constant communication throughout this process and the three of us are in complete agreement with everything that we are currently working on," said the statement. "Together, we will do what is best for the long-term success of the franchise. In addition, we want to make it clear that no one from outside our organization has been involved in this process in any way. We will have no further comment at this time."

The Daily News has reported that Thomas has been actively working behind the scenes as an advisor on the deal for the Nuggets' star scorer. The Knicks have been operating in two camps in the trade talks, with Dolan negotiating with Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke and Walsh dealing with Denver GM Masai Ujiri.

While the statement intends to portray the Knicks as being on the same page, Dolan, with Thomas providing input, has been pushing for Walsh to give the Nuggets more pieces than the team president wants to send to Denver, according to sources.

Dolan's involvement in the trade talks has further put a cloud over Walsh's future with the team. Dolan is considering whether to bring Walsh back for his fourth season, having until April 30 to exercise the option on Walsh's future.

Although they don't identify him by name in the statement, the Knicks want to distance themselves from Thomas because the league last summer rejected Dolan's attempt to hire his former team president as a consultant, citing his current job coaching the Florida International University basketball team.

But Dolan released a statement after the league's ruling, making it clear that Thomas was a friend and that he would continue to solicit him for advice. That has continued unabated, with Thomas convincing Dolan that he has the connections and the street cred to recruit the game's top stars to the Knicks. The Daily News reported last October that Thomas has told Dolan that he has received assurances from Anthony that he only wanted to play in the Garden.http://tsxu98.blog.com/

With the NBA trading deadline only four days away, Anthony met with Dolan here last Thursday night and then Saturday night with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nuggets are considering trade offers from both teams, while Anthony continues to regard the Knicks as his No. 1 destination. But if the Knicks can't swing a deal, Anthony would OK a trade to the Nets so that he could get a $65-million extension.


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